Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction), ‘Speriment by Bill Chance

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
― Paulo Coelho, Brida

20 Elements
Joel Shapiro
Northpark Center
Dallas, Texas

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#38). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


‘Speriment

Who and What are easy.. How and Why aren’t. Faith and Science. I have very little of one and none of the other. At six, though… Faith and Science can be conjured up from thin air.

I walked past the hall bathroom and something caught my eye. It was, not surprisingly, Little Sammy, hanging his tummy on the edge of the counter stretched out so he could reach the sink. He was filling a cup with water. The liquid was brown and foamy, it looked like it had Coke in it, and something else, something dark. I figured out the “something else” when I noticed the chocolate syrup spattered on the counter and smeared on his face.

“Sammy, what are you up to?” I asked, cleaning up some with a rag.

He calmly plopped a soft well-worm sliver of soap into the mixture which he still held in his hand. The soap floated, it must be Ivory.

“It’s my ‘speriment.”

“Sammy, What kind of experiment?”

“I have a book, it has the recipe. If I get the mixture just right, it’ll work. It’s a formula.”

This was technically a lie, but six year old boys live in a world where reality and fantasy are strangely mixed. As a parent this is the kind of statement you are better off letting pass.

I guess he came up with the idea of a “’speriment” after we dragged him to his big brother’s science fair – a horrific series of gaudy pasteboard displays of random information that had nothing at all to do with science. The middle school kids must have opened a musty encyclopedia in the back of the library at random and written up what fell out. Our oldest son Wally had a crude display on “Delirium Tremens” – which, after Uncle Percy’s performance last Thanksgiving… well Wally must have had some curiosity.

Usually Sammy’s public behavior is like a bomb going off. But at the Science Fair he strolled up and down the lines of kids with their crude, inane posters enraptured. He could not take his eyes off of the exhibitions of “The Fungus Among Us,” “Your Mighty Pancreas” or “That Will Leave a Stain.

Now, with Sammy, I didn’t ask what the “mixture” was supposed to do. He stirred it a little and then walked into the kitchen and began piling up chairs to reach the freezer above the refrigerator.

“Help me make room, Daddy,” he asked, “It has to be freezed all night.”

“Sammy, there’s more room in the big freezer in the garage.”

He pondered this for awhile and then relented, deciding that the garage deep freeze was indeed in the proper temperature range for his formula.

I thought to myself that sometime soon I was going to have to deal with a frozen chunk of diluted pop and chocolate, with some Ivory soap and God only knows what else added for a little extra kick. I think my wife would have made him throw it away right at the start – if she had been home. I let him mix it up, though, and he froze the whole concoction. I figured he’d forget about it and I’d throw it out the next day.

I went to sleep wishing I knew what the secret formula was supposed to do.

What happened to the muck in the freezer? I don’t know. The next morning the kids found that puppy on the front stoop. The kids had wanted a dog more than anything. My wife and I put them off – expense, hassle, the new carpets, that sort of thing. But a puppy on the stoop. You can’t say no to that, can you. So the ‘speriment was forgotten, by me at least, in a flurry of trips to the pet store, rearrangements of furniture, new sounds, new smells, and the excitement of a new member of the family. After a week I remembered, looked in the freezer, but it was gone. I don’t know why it was gone… maybe my wife found it – but she never said anything – and she would have said something.

It was the next morning after the ‘speriment, though, that we found the puppy… wasn’t it? A coincidence… I’m sure. Maybe. I wonder, sometimes, though, what a six year old knows that the rest of us have forgotten.

Short Story, Flash Fiction, Of the Day, Spaceliner by Bill Chance

This was twenty years before there would be a bicycle shop on every corner, and forty before you could have one delivered the next day from the internet – the only place his father knew of was Sears and Roebuck. They drove to the massive featureless brick rectangle at the edge of an endless parking lot.

—-Bill Chance, Spaceliner

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#3). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Spaceliner

It took the boy a month of courage collecting and the prodding of his mother to get the nerve to ask his father to buy him a bike. He expected the usual answer, “Christmas will come in only a few months, we will see about it then.”

When his father snuffed out his cigarette, stood up and said, “OK, let’s go,” the boy almost fainted.

This was twenty years before there would be a bicycle shop on every corner, and a half-century before you could have one delivered the next day from the internet – the only place his father knew of was Sears and Roebuck. They drove to the massive featureless brick rectangle at the edge of an endless parking lot.

The boy was jealous of his friends because they all had bicycles they called Spiders. These had huge curved banana seats – with purple plastic metallic sparkling covers. The handlebars rose straight up with a curve on the end – hopelessly unstable, but it looked cool. One friend had a bike with an actual round car-type steering wheel. He was the coolest of all.

But his father marched straight to the Sears Spaceliner model. Chrome and red, gigantic, heavy as a steel boulder – these had streamline art deco style curved tubes and a thick red console behind the handlebars that contained a light, horn and silver plastic control knobs. This was a careful design of an impractical transportation device that looked to a father from the fifties like something a boy from the sixties (on the other side of the vast cultural divide) would like.

“Let’s get one plenty big,” his father said, “So you won’t outgrow it too soon. I don’t want to be back down here in a year buying another one.”

The sales clerk had one already put together and he let the boy try it out in the back parking lot.

He had to push it along until it gained enough speed to roll upright on its own and then climb on to it as if it was a boat without a ladder. The thing was so large – so too big for him – that at the bottom of each stroke the pedal would disappear past his foot. He could not reach them at that point. He’d have to fish around with his foot as the pedal rose to get back on it.

Near the front door of the cavernous Sears was a little stand selling hot nuts. The vendor heated them on a little stove and sold them in paper bags. The odor of roasting peanuts, walnuts, and cashews filled the entrance and spilled out into the parking lot.

“Can we buy some cashews?” the boy asked. He was shocked when his father bought a bag. His father wasn’t one for impulse purchases. But this was a special day.

To this day, the boy, now an old man, loves cashews and splurges on a can every time he goes to the grocery. Sometimes he gets out an old cast-iron skillet out and heats them up before he gobbles them down.

 


This story is, of course, mostly true. It is a little simplified from reality – I didn’t get to test the bike out in the store. It turned out to be very frustrating – it was so big It took me a month to learn to ride it. In the meantime, my brother, who was three years younger than me got a small bike (what we would call a BMX style today) and immediately began scooting around the neighborhood. I thought it was my own incompetence, instead of the size of the machine.

I finally learned by lugging the thing to the top of a long, steep hill, standing on one pedal while the thing picked up speed rolling downhill. Then I would climb on. As you can imagine, this process resulted in a lot of crashes, skinned knees, and thumped heads (no bike helmets then).

If you know me, you might think that this is the origin of my love for cycling. That would be wrong. A few years later, back on a base, I went down to the Post Exchange and spotted a ten speed racing bicycle, what we called at that time an “English Racer.” It was the first time I ever saw a bike with dropped bars. I was addicted to Popular Science Magazine and had read about the new invention “derailleur gears” and amazed to see them in real life.  I was entranced.

Again, I was shocked when my father bought the bike. This one was perfect. I rode that bike everywhere and learned how to work on it (the early derailleur system was crude and needed constant adjusting). That has continued to the present day – 55 years later.

Not too long ago, I saw a Sears Spaceliner for sale at a vintage bicycle show. It was in mint condition – it cost seven hundred dollars. I didn’t buy it.

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Auntie Cheeks by Renée Jessica Tan

Back then, any woman with white hair was an auntie, but no one could tell me how we were related. My dad said she came from my mom’s side, and my mom said she came from my dad’s. My parents rarely agreed about anything.

—-Renée Jessica Tan, Auntie Cheeks

 

Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas

Read it here:

Auntie Cheeks by Renée Jessica Tan

from Flash Fiction Online

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, How I Learned About Evolution by Michelle Ross

Mom taught me Earth with a buttermilk pancake. “We’re about right here,” she said, pointing just off-center of the middle. Dad taught me birds with a helium balloon. “It’s filled with flying gas.”

—- Michelle Ross, How I Learned About Evolution

My bicycle locked up to the TRex in Exposition Park, Dallas, Texas

We didn’t home school our kids. One reason (among many, I admit) is that we always thought that the public schools – especially in our ‘hood – needed our kids.

Read it here:

How I Learned About Evolution by Michelle Ross

from Okay Donkey

Michelle Ross Webpage

 

A Love Episode

“It was always the same; other people gave up loving before she did. They got spoilt, or else they went away; in any case, they were partly to blame. Why did it happen so? She herself never changed; when she loved anyone, it was for life. She could not understand desertion; it was something so huge, so monstrous that the notion of it made her little heart break.”
Émile Zola, Une Page d’amour

A Love Episode, Emile Zola

 

I am now a good chunk into Emile Zola’s twenty volume Rougon Macquat series of novels. Attacking this pile of books in the recommended reading order:

  • La Fortune des Rougon (1871) (The Fortune of the Rougons)
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) (His Excellency Eugene Rougon/ His Excellency)
  • La Curée (1871-2) (The Kill)
  • L’Argent (1891) (Money)
  • Le Rêve (1888) (The Dream)
  • La Conquête de Plassans (1874) (The Conquest of Plassans/A Priest in the House)
  • Pot-Bouille (1882) (Pot Luck/Restless House/Piping Hot)
  • Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) (The Ladies’ Paradise/Shop Girls of Paris/Ladies’ Delight)
  • La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (1875) (The Sin of Father Mouret/Abbe Mouret’s Transgression)
  • Une Page d’amour (1878) (A Lesson in Love/A Love Episode/A Page of Love/A Love Affair)
  • Le Ventre de Paris (1873) (The Belly of Paris/The Fat and the Thin/Savage Paris/The Markets of Paris)
  • La Joie de Vivre (1884) (The Joys of Living/Joy of Life/How Jolly Life Is/Zest for Life)
  • L’Assommoir (1877) (The Dram Shop/The Gin Palace/Drink/Drunkard)
  • L’Œuvre (1886) (The Masterpiece/A Masterpiece/His Masterpiece)
  • La Bête Humaine (1890) (The Beast in the Man/The Human Beast/The Monomaniac)
  • Germinal (1885)
  • Nana (1880)
  • La Terre (1887) (The Earth/The Soil)
  • La Débâcle (1892) (The Downfall/The Smash-up/The Debacle)
  • Le Docteur Pascal (1893) (Doctor Pascal)

The next one up was A Love Episode.

At this point I have finished the last of the books from the Mouret section of the Rougon Macquat books. The Rougon section dwelt mostly on the upper classes, especially on the mad ruthless speculation in L’Argent. Then came the Mouret branch of the family – middle class workers fighting to get ahead – and not always succeeding.  Now, after A Love Episode I will move into the Macquat  books – where poverty, drunkeness, and madness await. I’ve read four of these already – will have to decide whether to re-read them or not.

One characteristic of the last few books has been elaborate, extensive, florid, and detailed description. In A Love Episode this mostly consists of pages of description of the appearance of Paris out of the window of the protagonists suburban apartment. The changes in weather and light over the magnificent city reflect the inner turmoil that the main characters are experiencing.

It’s a short book, the easiest so far to read, that details… as the title suggests, a romance. The love story is between a beautiful young widow and the doctor that lives next door. He comes to her aid when her daughter falls ill. This is Paris, so the fact he is married is not an immovable obstacle, even though she is of sound moral character. The daughter, however, is sickly and very jealous, which leads to complications and, this being a Zola novel, an ultimate disaster.

A quick, fun, read… with a nice bunch of interesting characters – folks like those that you will still meet today.

If you look hard enough

The Thud of a Great Beast Stamping

“The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Children’s Waterpark, Waxahachie, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Would anybody want it?

There’s a button on a stand. The button doesn’t do anything at first – but then the water, a little bit at first, then more and more and more until torrents are spewing from pipes and nozzles. A plastic bucket fills, tilts, and dumps it’s cargo of dihydrogen monoxide out in a foamy amoeba into the hot Texas sun.

In the Cathedral

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Three, Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Walking around the French Quarter we decided to stop off at the iconic (and beautiful) St. Louis Cathedral as a peaceful respite from the heat and a nice place to write for a bit. This is some of what I wrote there.

Saint Louis Cathedral from across the Mississippi River

The Devotion Machine

The Cathedral was designed – as all were – to draw the eyes upward, the attention and ultimately, the soul, toward heaven.

At first the peasants felt their rough clothes, callused hands, and freshly scrubbed skin acutely – feeling out of place, uneasy, and embarrassed at their poverty and the effects of a difficult and dangerous life. But the calm and quiet reverence would wear away their feelings of unease and they would accept the fact the opulent gilt statuary, soaring columns, and ceiling frescoes of Saints and the Christ peering down, magnanimous, as if through gaps in the clouds, were all intended for them. Each individual worker feeling as if this vast impressive building – this Machine for Devotion – was designed, constructed, and decorated for him and him alone. A personal miracle that helped him forget the world and dream of a higher place.

At least for a few precious seconds.

Children in the Cathedral

Down the center aisle two children – a small boy and his younger sister, almost a toddler – hopped along, playing a game of leaping contrasting floor tiles in a complicated very personal and mysterious children’s pattern. Their feet clomped and echoed through the vast silent space. All the supplicants stared in vexation.

“They think they own the place,” everyone thought to themselves – some daring to mumble out loud.

And that’s the horror of growing up, isn’t it. At that young age everyone owns the world. Over the next years those kids will come the slow horrifying realization that they own nothing.

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Seventeen – The Veldt

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day seventeen – The Veldt, by Ray Bradbury
Read it online here:

The Veldt

Today’s is a story I have read before – but it was so long ago I don’t remember it – so it counts as fresh. “The Veldt” was first published as “The World the Children Made” in 1950 – but it was later included in the anthology “The Illustrated Man” in 1951. I read that book as a child (and saw the movie – which “The Veldt” is in also) – so I know I’ve read it before. I do have a memory of the movie version – maybe that wiped out the written word.

At any rate, even though the story is almost seventy years old (wow!) it could be written today. The only thing that dates it are the prices – a state of the art luxury automated home cost thirty thousand dollars – the author obviously intended that to seem like a lot of money.

The story is about the evils that can befall you if you buy into luxury too much and lose sight of the real world. For these parents, the real world gets in through the artificial luxury and bites them on the ass (literally). Oh, and it’s no coincidence that the kid’s names are Peter and Wendy (as in Pan and Darling).

“Everything. Where before they had a Santa Claus now they have a Scrooge. Children prefer Santas. You’ve let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother and father, far more important in their lives than their real parents. And now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there’s hatred here. You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun. George, you’ll have to change your life. Like too many others, you’ve built it around creature comforts. Why, you’d starve tomorrow if something went wrong in your kitchen. You wouldn’t know how to tap an egg. Nevertheless, turn everything off. Start new. It’ll take time. But we’ll make good children out of bad in a year, wait and see.”

It’s interesting to compare and contrast this story to the one from day six, The Semplica-Girl Diaries. Both are the stories of parents trying to give their children the best the world has to offer, and failing terribly. Both are brought down by their children (one set on purpose, the other as an unintended consequence) as a result of an extravagant purchase – a present – done with the best of intentions.

And we all know what road those pave.